What is Agile?

What is Agile?

AGILE is being quick enough to avoid or take advantage of those things that can hurt or help in your pursuit.

This makes the word contextually dependent on what it is we are considering. For example each picture below demonstrates the meaning of the word agile by leveraging common metaphors we use. The word when used this way shows up in nature and in man made things. The word agile in this context is moving through time and being able to negotiate patterns and thrive. There are several notable agile development methods with the most popular one being Scrum. The definition of agile follows closely from the dictionary which says nimble or quick. The notable difference from the dictionary’s use of agile is setting this word up to describe a method for a system or team.

agile nature man made

A  pursuit in this context would be called an effort, work or project. However, notice the phrase “quick enough”; why is that wording used and relevant.


The agile movement got its biggest boost in the public sector in 2001 with the signing of the Agile Manifesto 2001 and agreement on the word agile to span the class of methods that were being used at that time. The signing of the Agile Manifesto gave birth to the industry agile management movement.

Most of the modern day agile development methods were born from software development practice. However, agile development methods have shown themselves to be easily applicable to other domains especially project management. Software development enabled a rapid feedback loop that allowed a viral exploration and evolution of collaborative methods between humans and technology.

The word agile was extensively used by the military before 2001. The word agile was used in at least one military project with the intent of developing software/hardware using an agile method as early as 1983.

The Agile Alliance 2003 and Scrum Alliance 2005 were both born after the singing of the Agile Manifesto. The Agile Manifesto is also supported by 4 values and 12 principles. These 4 values and 12 principle constrain the definition of agile and thus, trend towards predictive thinking. More on this in a future post “Exploring the 12 Principles of the Agile Manifesto” and “Exploring the 4 Values of the Agile Manifesto”. We will explore both the 12 principles and 4 values, against the definition of Agile as set forth in this article.